Tag Archives: Entropy

What Worked and What Didn’t: The ‘Uprising III’ in Review

Without the benefit of time to look back on the Indie Games Uprising III in a foggier and perhaps more glamorous way (it’s only been a few weeks since its conclusion), the general review of the Uprising doesn’t have the luxury of hiding or settling much in my system before being held under the microscope and dissected. So a brief article, if you will, of me spouting off whatever pops into my sad little head concerning the before, during, and after of the event, which took place from September 10th to September 20th, 2012. I take a look at the hits and misses of the promotion on a case by case basis. This is an overview of the Uprising as a whole. For an in-depth review of each Uprising game, the titles are clickable links. Enjoy.

Pregame: Uprising III

WHAT WENT RIGHT: A great deal of promotion and mentions from a variety of sites, mainstream and backwater establishments like myself, in the weeks leading up to the Uprising’s start. Indie journalists around the web, at Cathy’s (IndieGamerChick) insistence, worked together to spread the news, not just on their respective forums, but with links and cross-promotion with other sites, creating a network of easily searchable previews, interviews, and articles related to the launch and its lineup. Personally, I don’t think we as a group could have done any more to better set the stage for September 10th’s start date.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Microsoft. Again. Surprise. Not that the company ever puts much faith or weight behind XBLIG (changes to the service usually only happen once enough people complain about their lack of effort), but outside of a few token lines and minor stories, the big M was mostly silent on the promotion. No dashboard banners, no vocal support. To make matters worse, the prepaid code generator for Xbox Live Indie Games, the system that spits out free codes that developers hand off to reviewers and the general public, broke down in the middle of the Uprising, and to date, has not been fixed or given a timetable for repair. Considering the Indie service makes them money, you’d think they show a little more drive. Not so. Unacceptable and baffling.

qrth-phyl

WHAT WENT RIGHT: A classic ‘snake’ arcade game, now updated in three dimensions, with a unique look, nice soundtrack, and a great 3D camera. That camera-work, by the way, it’s not easy to get right. Extra kudos. qrth-phyl was a great choice for a leadoff title that got people excited to see where the Uprising was headed.

WHAT WENT WRONG: That depends on who you talk to. Some felt it needed leaderboards, which aren’t easily-implementable or ideal for XBLIG. Others, including myself, expected more besides the snaking, given the complexity of its presentation and the mention of ‘ghosts’. It was deliberately cryptic, both in previews for the game and in interviews with the developer. Regardless, the final product didn’t suffer for it.

qrth-phyl+fun=good

Sententia

WHAT WENT RIGHT: An existential premise; paving your own path in life, remembering not to lose your youth in growing up, a statement on bullying, and a cool twist to combat and puzzle-solving. A thinking man’s game, a Braid for XBLIG. Prior to its release, I had the game pegged to be one of my Top 3 to come out of the event. I fully expected it to shine.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Pretty much everything beyond the title screen. Bad platforming bits, clunky puzzle-solving, and utterly-aggravating enemy spawns leading to cheap death after cheap death. Given that developer Michael Hicks was also in co-charge of the Uprising itself, there were some that felt his game’s inclusion should have been somehow invalid or disqualified. Past Uprisings have contained games from co-sponsors, but having played the game, I can say it certainly needed a lot more work and testing. Would’ve better served the Uprising to have been left out of it.

Diehard Dungeon

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Roguelikes are popping up everywhere these days, and much like FPSes and Block Crafters, the gaming public can’t get enough. Diehard Dungeon hit the spot dead on, proving it was more than a Binding of Issac cash-in. With a fun twin-stick shooter (including a leaderboard!) as an extra mode and the promise of almost 50% more content to be added to the game in post-release, you got your dollar’s worth and (eventually) then some.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Very little, which frankly, after the fiasco that was Sententia, the Uprising sorely needed in order to get back on track.

Gateways

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Portal in 2D, plenty of gateway guns to experiment with, and some of the best puzzle designs seen anywhere, including the big boys in arcade and retail. Gateways deserves every accolade it receives. It ended up being my favorite from this Uprising.

WHAT WENT WRONG: I reached the last puzzle in the game, and having heard the horror stories of its solution (time-consuming, required a bit of luck, placing actual tape over the TV screen to mark locations), chose to back away slowly and then run in the opposite direction. There were accusations of me being a pussy, which I was completely fine with. I escaped with my sanity to tell the tale, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the game otherwise.

Gateways, or visual depiction of my fractured mind? Both?

Smooth Operators

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Manage the daily grind (and incessant ringing) of a call center, the comings and goings of your workforce, set the schedule and decor, survive the ups and downs of operating a business, and, most of all, feed your personal addiction that keeps games like Sim City, Tiny Tower, and, now, Smooth Operators, in business and thriving.

WHAT WENT WRONG: My productivity in real life, sleep sacrificed so that I could build and maintain a fictional call center. My parents are proud.

Entropy

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Being so damn pretty I almost proposed to the game (in truth, I did propose, but Entropy turned me down. I’m still not proud of the way I begged it to reconsider. Plenty of tears.). Mystery, intrigue, lovely fire effects and lighting.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Kids, the moral of this story is, looks aren’t everything. Despite flashes of fun, the puzzles were extended not due to their complexity or guile, but by physics and controls that were manageable, but in no way perfect, for the solutions the game requires. It also lacked any kind of personality, which should have been impossible, based on the environments and their details.

Be still, my beating heart.

City Tuesday

WHAT WENT RIGHT: More art than most art, City Tuesday had time-travel and puzzles / people that were linked and grounded in the real world. It tackled the idea of terrorism, in a limited way, yes, but still carried more ideas with it that most other XBLIGs never bother to even touch on.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Just as you’ve adjusted to and learned the game’s tricks, it’s over. Twenty minutes in. The ending sequence feels tacked on and completely out of place.

XenoMiner

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Survival, a palpable sense of life and death, an incredible (and incredibly helpless) feeling of being on a foreign planet, discovering it for the first time. Crafting / Mining that rewards your patience with even greater rewards. Alien technology that can be put to work for you, provided you’re C-3PO and speak Bocce.

WHAT WENT WRONG: There’s no easy or quick way to get set up on Xenos, outside of hard work and (lots and lots of) time. Horrible skipping and pausing when venturing from one area to the next almost ruined the experience for me. Others have reported the same.

I can literally see my free time disappearing over the horizon.

Pixel

WHAT WENT RIGHT: A cool cel-shaded look. A puzzle / platforming hybrid that had variety.

WHAT WENT WRONG: The Uprising ended on Pixel and it should not have. Glitches, oversensitive controls, guns that didn’t shoot where you aimed, and a bad FOV all contributed to its downfall. That it was a short game was a blessing. It stunk of an unpolished title either rushed to meet the deadline or someone forgiving way too much during the testing process. As the bookend, it needed to finish the promotion on a strong note. Instead it left a bad aftertaste.

Postgame: Uprising III

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Three top-tier games that anyone should be able to enjoy (qrth-phyl, Smooth Operators, XenoMiner) and two immediate leaderboard games (Diehard Dungeon, Gateways). Not a bad showing from nine games, and all for $9. I will say this; overall, from both myself and other reviewers, as well as the gaming public, it is confirmed and accepted that the Uprising III games were much improved upon last year’s cast, and site traffic across the indie sites did see a boost. That doesn’t necessarily equate to sales, and it’s probably too early to measure it a success, but it does show that gamers were interested in the crop. Assuming there is a fourth outing for XBLIG, it will have to be quite good to match the combined quality of Uprising III.

WHAT WENT WRONG: A few ‘dud’ games in Sententia and Pixel, Microsoft dropping the ball, then kicking it out of the stadium so no one could play. One rejected marriage proposal. Some review-related stress, some sleepless nights.

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REVIEW: Entropy

Entropy (80 MSP) does not back down from its initial visual promise; it is the most beautiful XBLIG in three dimensions that I’ve laid eyes on. So much so that I find myself blushing when in its presence, and I don’t care who knows it. From the foliage to bloom effects (yes, at the cost of an occasionally sputtering frame-rate) this game is hawt.

Sadly, pretty moving pictures and the compliments they inspire do not a well-rounded review make, so take my previous fawning over its technical marvels for what it is and let me move on to the bullet points. You, you little amnesiac you, wake up to find you’re facing a series of test chambers that must be solved. I’m sure that probably sounds familiar. Guided by the balls of colored energy that roused you, that seem to be neither friend nor foe, you’ll work to add other balls, these being comprised of elements (stone, fire, water, acid), to various scales within the levels that measure weight, temperature, or the pH content, thus opening the exit.

The game doesn’t explain much, and what little it does is done through images and paintings on walls, or a subtle sign. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long to see that certain elements will not mesh (fire and water, for instance), and this is actually core to the game’s puzzles. Water will cool fire, turning it to a touchable (and moveable) stone. The other elements have similar relationships. Trial and error all you like. Nothing is permanent in Entropy. In a very smart design move, if you make a mistake or die (you’ll do both) all you have to do is rewind time and do it differently.

And it helps to explore. I did notice that certain levels have a few different solutions. The first path opens up your standard exit (dropping through a hole) from the stage, while another, more arcane route, can open passages that lead to uncovering hidden paintings (a total of 12). What effect finding these has (if any), I don’t know. I wasn’t clever enough to spot more than one. I also wasn’t dedicated enough to finish the game, stopping at stage 10 (of 26) after having put around four hours into it.

So pretty. And so dull.

A good chunk of that time was spent fighting with the game’s physics, either in ‘pushing’ elements to where I needed them to be, careful not to burn or corrode myself, or in using the ‘gravity bubbles’ to group and / or sort others. It’s one thing to craft interesting puzzles around a mechanic, it’s quite another to ‘see’ a puzzle solution, and then take twenty minutes or more trying to tiredly will that solution into being.

I didn’t find manipulating the pieces myself to be all that bad, as I had physical control (mostly) over where they ended up. With the bubbles, though, you’re either ‘inching’ elements along at a snail’s pace, or ‘resetting’ them (rewinding time) just to continue inching. It adds a degree of complexity to the solving that is not needed, and, more unfortunately, not fun. I didn’t get far enough into the game to (according to the trailer) mess with the gravity in some stages, so I can’t say for certain whether the early frustrations increase or start to level off.

I dislike posting a review on something if I haven’t seen it through (or in the least, halfway-through). It’s sloppy journalism for one, and two, it can’t give anyone the whole picture when so much is left unseen. At the risk of losing credibility, I’m going to assume that large parts of Entropy‘s second half will play out much like its first part did; gorgeous scenes with the occasional flash of brilliance, mixed in sparingly with much bigger portions of clunky, molasses-slow puzzle-solving. It’s worth the look and MSP, but you might not stick with it.

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Review on Indie Gamer Chick

Review on Clearance Bin Review

Review on The Indie Mine

Prelude to the Uprising: Entropy

Back when the Dream.Build.Play competition had just closed for entries, and myself and others were busy picking through the lot, checking off favorites and ones to watch, Entropy’s visuals stood out to me. The game is simply gorgeous. My hat is tipped to Autotivity Entertainment for its craft. We all know looks will only get you so far, though, it’s your chemical makeup that’ll eventually decide your worth. There’s a surprising amount of care built-in for that too.

Awakened from a deep sleep, you discover yourself in the enigmatic world of Entropy. Follow the tempting little apparition that woke you from slumber, and solve mind-boggling puzzles along the way. Master over 25 challenging levels and exploit interactions between lava, acid, electricity and many other physical phenomenons to find your way through the world. Hell, you can even bend gravity to your will to perform otherwise impossible tasks (such as to avoid touching dangerous stuff)! Move back in time as needed – just in the event something goes wrong. All this takes place in a stunning and immersive 3D environment that is populated by mysterious creatures and their leftbehinds, waiting for someone to unveil the mystery.

While a good part of the fun will be had in messing around with the different elements in each stage, then resetting the destruction, the rooms and their puzzles will make or break the experience for most. I was relieved to hear the solutions won’t require a recital of the periodic table from memory or a college degree. It gives me a fighting chance at seeing the end and enjoying it for much more than its good looks.

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Entropy will be released on September 17th, for 80 MSP.

Interview at The Indie Mine

Preview on Clearance Bin Review